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One Day in Antwerp, Belgium

Day 3: Antwerp

Easter Monday morning, after I left Brussels, I began my hostel hopping through Belgium trip with my first stop to Antwerp. Because I've been asked a lot I will say I did book all my train tickets & hostels ahead of time, it was not really necessarily as most didn't have assigned seats, but it did save me the hassle of having to figure out train schedules while I was there. Unfortunately the weather in Antwerp was the least cooperative of any of my days in Belgium and it was chilly with a drizzly rain all day, so my time in Antwerp wasn't quite what I was hoping it might be, but non-the-less, I checked out the cute little town. 

I arrived by train just before 10am and departed shortly before 7pm so this was the only town I visited as well that I didn't spend the night in. One great surprise was getting off the train in Antwerp and realizing how insanely gorgeous the train station itself was {talk about an unexpected perk!} Not having gotten a SIM card in Europe on this trip I didn't have any internet so I walked out of the station and just started following people hoping they were heading towards something interesting!

Lucky me I quickly found myself downtown {ok I can't lie I did stop for a bagel break on the way!} in the cutest little town square capped off by the Cathedral of Our Lady towering overhead. I did a couple laps of the square and the surrounding streets and headed off in search of museum I had been told about and low and behold ran into a castle {don't you just hate when that happens ;) } so of course I had to make a quick detour!

Once I finished checking out my newly purchased castle I headed out again in the direction of the Museum aan de Stroom; now to be honest I still have NO idea what's inside this museum, I think it's art, but that wasn't my goal. This museum is 10 stories tall and features glass windows and panoramic views of the city on all 10 floors that are open to the public {{hello free & beautiful...my kind of attraction!}} And let me tell you, the views didn't disappoint!

On my stroll back to the train station  I noticed a sign that said "peep show" and before I knew it I was in the middle of a street full of large windowed shops "advertising" barely dressed women...talk about uncomfortably running from there! haha But none the less I made it to the station and was excited and giddy headed for Ghent!

2 Days in Brussels

H.o.l.y cow! What a whirlwind of a spring break! 10 days, 6 cities, 2 countries, and a lifetime of memories to take home {but seriously, that all I’m taking home other than some crumpled train tickets at the bottom of all my pockets}.

Being a teacher definitely has its perks, one being spring break; and when my students go on vaca, this teacher isn’t going to leave hers behind either! Thanks to the website Scott’s Cheap Flights, I was able to score tickets to Belgium’s capital city Brussels for about half the price that they typically are, and from there the train tickets, hostel stays, and daily planning spun out of control! ;)

I traveled the week post Easter beginning on Good Friday, March 30 and home again on Sunday, April 8...10 glorious days exploring Belgium & France at my own leisurely pace!

Day 1: Brussels
Landed in Brussels airport EARLY Saturday morning and hung around a bit to catch up with my friend Justin and his dad and sister who were stopping in Belgium for a mere 40ish hours. Once we found each other we grabbed a train and headed downtown. They opted for nap time, but I wanted to start getting aquatinted with the city {and by aquainted I mean I needed to find some waffles}. I had booked us a free walking tour for early afternoon but it still left me with about 3 hours to walk around, check out some sights, and get my first waffle!

In 3 hours I managed to check out on foot the Grand Place, St Nicholas & St. Michales churches, GIRL PEE, the galleries of St. Hubert, and of course some taste testing! After their nap I met up with Justin & family for our free Sandeman's Walking Tour {highly recommended throughout Europe} in the Grand Place. Our nearly 3 hour walking tour checked out some of the same areas I had already seen along with the Town Hall, Manneken Pis, The Stock Exchange, The Royal Square, and the comic art scene, and explained exactly what all we were seeing as well as giving us time to sample our 1st Belgian beer....day 1 was shaping up to be pretty great!

Afterwards we grabbed dinner at a tavern our guide had recommended sampling Carbonade, a typical Belgian beef & beer stew. We finished our night off with several more beer tastings, including a trip to Delirium tavern (an overpopulated popular but must-see bar in Brussels) and a night visit to the Grand Place. Goodnight Belgium, I can’t wait to see what other adventures we have in store for each other!

Day 2: Brussels

Happy Easter!

2016 I spent Easter in Taiwan, 2017 I was in Brazil, 2018 I had to make great, so Belgium it was!

Before even leaving the US I had picked out St. Michaels Cathedral in downtown Brussels for Easter mass at 11am. I got there around 10:40 and was a little worried to see a previous mass going on with low attendance and only a few people waiting around for the 11am mass. I figured it just must not be an important part of Easter for the locals to go to mass. 11am hit though and instantly the Church was PACKED with standing room only (and I snagged a spot up front!) The mass was said in French, and in conjunction with the trumpet and organist, the mass was absolutely beautiful! 

After mass I ventured on the metro to go check out a couple of sights outside of the downtown area {truly most of this was doable in one day} including the Porte de Halle (remains of a city wall), Church of Notre-Dame Du Finistere, and the famous Atomium structure. Next up was Parc Elizabeth (this park is a good half a mile long!) along with the beautiful Koekelberg church in the park as well talking my time and walking leisurely soaking in all the sights and sounds Belgium had to offer me!

Around dinner time Justin, his family and I met back up, and with recommendations from a flight attendant, we headed to a local upscale restaurant where I sampled the Carbonade once more and excellent food was had by all!

After dinner we walked around enjoying the lights of the Grand Place with waffles in hand with a good, && very well deserved, night’s sleep just ahead :)

Home is Where the Heart is - Visiting Taiwan 2017

I had been gone for 354. 354 days since I left the place that I now call a 2nd home. 254 days since I left the children who have touched my heart and taught me about myself in so many ways. 354 days since I last had a delicious dumpling or red bean bun. 354 days that I have been dreaming about the day I could return back to Taiwan...and finally...today arrived!

June 28, 2017 I was able to board a plane headed back to Taiwan, and this time I wasn't full of worry, questions, and regret; no this time...I was as excited as a little school girl, I couldn't stinking wait!!

Day 1. Travel {{Stuck in Korea for 14 hours // finally landed in Taiwan}}

Day 2. Hsinchu{{visited Xinfong Elementary // lunch at favorite dumpling shop // dinner with friends}}

Day 3. FuLong & Taipei{{visited FuLong Elementary // Shillin Night Market, Taipei}}

Day 4. Travel {{Elephant Mountain // Din Tai Fung dumplings // Chiang Kai Shek Memorial}}

Day 5. Beach{{FuLong Beach with Matthew & Ruth // finally landed in Taiwan}}

Day 6. Taipei {{Grand Hotel // Hsing Tian Kong Temple}}

Day 7. Taipei {{Presidential Office Building // Yingge Ceramic Street // 4th of July fireworks}}

Day 8. Taipei {{Junjian Yan Mountain // Tamsui Fisherman's Warf // Opera House}}

Day 9. Taipei & Kaohsiung{{Ximen Area // Lotus Pond // night market}}

Day 10. Kaohsiung {{bike riding // Cijin Island // Martyrs' Shrine}}

Day 11. Hsinchu{{Whiteford Family // park // night market}}

Day 12. Travel {{headed home...Vancouver layover here I come}}

So long and much love Taiwan...until we meet again!

{{Stay tuned for my quickie post on Vancouver as I travel home!}}

Brazil, Beaches, and Boating

Brazil Days 6, 7, 8 

I'm going to attempt to squeeze all of these days into 1 post, more for me than for anyone else 😏 as I've been home a year now and I'm still working on these stinking posts! (on the other hand every time I sit down to work on these posts it feels like I'm reliving it all...so I guess that's a win!)

At the end of my last post I had just finished an obnoxiously long bus ride and landed at our hotel for the 7 of us just before midnight, so needless to say even though we were pumped to head to the beach...bed first!

Morning came and we awoke in ARRAIAL Do CABO straight east of Rio {{I dare you to google this place....BEAUTIFUL!}} We grabbed breakfast and were all ready for a day long boat tour of the various islands and relaxing in the sun and what do we open our eyes to...rain...and lots of it! But, not to be deterred...we persisted and had the most wonderful day of boating, swimming, sunning, and drinking! {{and as for the rain...honestly it ended up ending after our boat started and there were no regrets on our wonderful day!}}

The next morning we wake up to blue skies, puffy white clouds, a salt smell in the air, unicorns prancing in the yard...ok maybe no unicorns...but the day was gorgeous! We had every intention in the world to do nothing...so we did! We laid on the beach, ate fresh fruit, enjoyed some drinks and soaked in the wonderful Brazilian sunshine!

Late that afternoon we hopped back on the bus and headed back towards Rio getting "home" late once again. Saturday morning was my last day in Rio as I was flying back early that evening and I had just ONE thing left on my todo list...Sugarloaf Mountain {{great views, cable cars, and a wonderful breeze}} 

So long Rio...you were amazing!! And so many thanks Caitlin for your hospitality, travel guides, Portuguese lessons, && beach recommendations! {{and thank goodness I still have another 9 years on my visa for my next visit!}}

Day 5 in Rio {{Downtown Walking Tour}}

{{4.12.17}} - A quickie half day walking tour through downtown Rio

Yesterday's hefty walk through half of Rio left me a little on the tired side so I let myself sleep in a bit today before getting up and ready for the morning...a little street side tapioca crepe and fresh juice helped me out a bit too!  I also knew I had to be back to Caitlin's apartment by early afternoon so I figured a quick trip to downtown Rio would be the perfect fit. Remember from previous posts, I LOVE w.a.l.k.i.n.g everywhere while I travel, so naturally walking tours are a favorite of mine!

I found a couple different free walking tours of Rio online and combined the best of each and came up with my own itinerary and it was perfect!

Highlights of the day included: 

-- The Abby of Our Lady of Montserrat (ok but really...it was gated off and I only saw it from the street lol --
-- Candelaria Church in downtown {this was huge and beautiful inside && out! --
-- Bank of Brazil Cultural Center {BBCC - this was a pretty building to check out & it came with air conditioning inside ;)  } --
-- Checking out the Olympic torch --
-- The museum of Tomorrow {honestly I didn't have much interest on the items inside the museum, but if you ever find yourself in Rio you have to at least walk by it...holy architecture! } --
-- Mercado Popular {this was very reminiscent of Taiwanese crowded day markets selling everything and ANYTHING you can think of!} --
-- Wandering up and down side alleys checking out all the fun houses --
-- Eating street food...lots and LOTS of street food! --

I met Caitlin and her roommates back at their place later in the day when they got off of work early and we finished packing up and headed to the bus station for a nice long weekend away {I mean everyone needs a vacation from their vacation RIGHT!} Unfortunately for us what was typically a 1.5 to 2 hour trip turned into an over 3.5 hour bus ride dropping us off to our hotel late at night with just enough time to find our hostel and crash hard...goodnight Brazil...until tomorrow!